I was a music producer, and everyone was telling me that I had no business becoming a rapper, so it gave me the opportunity to tell everyone, “Hey, I need some time to recover.” But during that recovery period, I just spent all my time honing my craft and making The College Dropout. Without that period, there would have been so many phone calls and so many people putting pressure on me from every direction—so many people I somehow owed something to—and I would have never had the time to do what I wanted to.
12 Years a Slave. Not sure how to talk about this one. Hard to watch. At times it is very, very on-the-nose. If you’ve seen Steve McQueen’s Shame and Hunger, this will be no surprise. But it’s strange that it doesn’t feel… dramatic. It is focused. It is facts. It also makes you feel some of the same unease (the score is a huge contributor here). The movie is all in the protagonist’s perspective, which unfortunately means everyone else can seem a little flat (despite the cast being awesome), or merely functional. But it also puts you in the center, witnessing the moral bargains and compromises, comparing and contrasting how each person manages an impossible situation, and perhaps suggesting the futility of passing judgment on how each copes. A couple more things to note. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but you don’t get the sense of time passing, though it’s ostensibly twelve years we see. Could definitely be by design – the monotony and sameness by design – I’m just not sure. And I gotta say, I’m not thrilled with Brad Pitt’s late appearance. He’s got too much star power to show up so late, in such a role, for so short a period. I couldn’t quite get used to him. It’s not his fault, though. Anyway, good movie. The contrast with Django Unchained could not be more stark.
Shame. Just like with Hunger, my interest rarely wavered but I’m not totally sure what to make of it. It felt odd that a movie that’s so vivid and unafraid is also so… conservative? I’d scrap the song scene, which is a fine performance but so, so dreary compared to the rest of the movie. Michael Fassbender is incredible, though (makes me even more excited for Prometheus). Carey Mulligan is also great, with the reservation that I like her role’s characterizing-Fassbender function much more than her plot function as the movie progresses. I’m pretty sure I’ll watch whatever Steve McQueen’s next movie is.
Hunger. Not sure how I feel about this one overall. I was glad Bobby Sands wasn’t really portrayed as martyr-hero or villain-fool, just a really committed guy. Much more about the choices of a life than the politics that motivate them. I wish the dreamy bits at the end had been chopped down a bit, maybe a better balance with the first two acts that way.